Monday, July 29, 2013

Get Used To It

Giants fans, it's pretty bad right now. That sweep at the hands of the Cubs--all one-run losses, all marked by painful moments of failure--is the low point of 2013. For now.

So pardon me for rubbing salt in those open wounds. But have you been keeping an eye on the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig?

The 22-year-old Cuban has put up eye-popping numbers since he arrived in LA in early June. Not coincidentally, the Dodgers have gone from last to first with Puig manning right field. They were 9 games under .500 the day before he arrived. Since then, the Dodgers have been playing out of their minds. They're 17 games over .500 (33-16) in The Puig Era.

But it's not just wins and losses and stats. With Puig, you're talking about a bona fide Big-Time Star. This guy elevates showboating to a level you don't see very often. His latest exploit: the punctuation mark on his first-ever walk-off home run. Check it out:

Puig conducts his interviews in Spanish, so it's possible things get lost in translation. But here's what he said afterward about his unusual arrival at home plate: "Some people jump, some people slide, some people run."

Really? Because I don't remember ever seeing a major-leaguer end a game by hitting one over the wall and then sliding home.

It's the part of Puig's game that gets opposing fans red in the face and causes opponents to grind their molars. It's probably not a coincidence that Puig was in the middle of the big Dodgers-Diamondbacks donnybrook in June, a few days after his arrival in the big leagues.  Old-school guys like Kirk Gibson and Matt Williams have very little use for Puig-style cavorting.

Yep, it annoys people (including, it's been reported, some of Puig's own teammates). Nope, it's not likely to go away. This guy is a singular talent whose backstory is still being revealed (this excellent Yahoo! Sports piece brought new details to light). Puig is...well, he's Yasiel Puig. And he's made it clear he's damned well going to do what he's going to do.

As long as he's hitting .372 and swaggering with the hottest team in baseball, don't look for him to suddenly go all Buster Posey on us.

Better get used to it.

1 comment:

Jimmy V said...

Good piece, Stan. I'm one of those currently disgruntled Giants fans who has been keeping an eye on Puig. He actually lingered on the available player list in my Yahoo fantasy baseball league. I snapped him up and my offense is rocking, thanks to him and others. But his act does rub me the wrong way. That's not to say that exuberance is taboo in the big leagues. Guys have always shown some attitude. You don't make it to that level without some kind of swagger. If you watched any of the World Baseball Classic you saw tons of Latin players whooping it up all throughout the games, and it was mostly accepted. I think there are still plenty of old-schoolers that are coaching and even some players old enough to really get peaved at antics like Puig's. If he wasn't so new to the league I'd probably forgive him. (Not to mention his unnecessary snub of Luis Gonzalez). But 48 games? Either the league will have to change its stance toward "showing up the other team" or Puig needs one thrown up and in, and maybe one right in his pie hole.